Interfaith Encounters: Mirror, Mirror On the Wall

by Rie Linton

Throughout history, people intermingled in the marketplace. Such a marketplace was even the setting for one of Jesus’ parables (Matthew 11:16-19). Humankind has seldom lived in isolation but rather in a communal, mixed gathering, dependent upon one another for life’s necessities. One fear of humankind is based upon our need to see ourselves in others. Our greatest downfall is in not seeing the image in the mirror clearly, not recognizing the marketplace reflection. This continues today.

The drum circle was open to the public, meeting every Sunday afternoon. All ages, all stages of musical ability, all types of apparel, and all types of ethnicities followed the rhythm of their souls. Some invented melodies and others accompanied on quiet stringed instruments. Tribal drums harmonized with marching snare-less drums as children ran back and forth and pets lay in the shade. The timbre of different drum skins echoed throughout the park as others left and more came. It was a market place of music, reflecting the heartbeats of centuries of gatherings of people, different and yet united in spirit.

Then one day someone brought a different drum. Instead of a skin or plastic head across the top, it was a wooden box with a hole in it. The player sat as usual and began to drum quietly, picking up the beat of the others. Slowly, one by one, they stopped and the self-appointed leader strolled over. “Where is your other drum?” he asked. “You need to either bring a drum with a head on it or stay home.” The player began to explain that, just as the others were vibrating the skin of an animal (or modern-day facsimile), the tree from which his drum had been made also represented life. He was asked to leave.

They had been talking, “mingling” for over an hour, easily conversing and comparing pet stories. Then one reached for a cup of tea and the cross around her neck became evident. Her companion quickly left, remarking that she was unaware the woman was “one of those crazy Christians”. Although they had been discussing Plato and the development of cultures based upon morals, she had no wish to discuss morals with someone who wore a sign of a religion around her neck, apparently feeling her sari represented something other than her Brahma Kumaris spiritual heritage.

The marketplaces of today may look different than those of ancient times but the cultural diversity still exists. We are still one community dependent upon each other. The djembe drum, the tribal drum most often found in drum circles, was used throughout African cultures as a song of peace. The playing of the djembe is a celebration of life and a way for people, all people, to come together. The cajón, the wooden box drum, originated in Peru as the instrument of African slaves forbidden to have any expression publicly. Separated from their culture and djembes, the slaves used what they could to express themselves. The union of the djembe and cajón that day in the drum circle was a reunion of culture, recognition of the joy of the human soul that could not be suppressed and yet, no one saw the reflection.

The young woman at the community function did indeed wear a cross. On it was inscribed “mind, body, soul”, recognition of how she wanted to live her faith. The Raja Yoga meditation of Brahma Kumaris, a form of meditative spirituality that teaches the soul is good, redefines the self as a soul and enables a direct connection and relationship with the Supreme Source of purest energy and highest consciousness. They had so much in common yet fear fogged their vision.

The drummer did return to the drum circle and the cajón was accepted. The drum circle’s purpose was the celebration of life and slowly, harmony reigned. The two women found themselves again together at the buffet, joined by an older woman. The Christian asked about the spirituality and applauded its beginnings as a feminist movement. The other girl listened, realizing there was only respect, not absolutism.

“My country is the world and my religion is to do good.” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. We should live so that others see our religion in us. Everyone we encounter is a doubting Thomas. We all make instant impressions of those we pass or with whom we converse. We need to let them see our faith just as Thomas saw the scars of Jesus.

One day our mirror will see not preconceptions but the reality of the marketplace. We are one in the spirit of life. We are one in life. Just as the drum cannot play without the player, we cannot exist without the marketplace community, united in the spirit of mind, body, and soul.

Rie Linton is a professional musician and conductor, writer, graphic artist, community family values educator and child advocate, a lifelong Episcopalian who has served as Girls Friendly leader, EYC advisor, church school director/teacher, ECW officer, church musician, EfM journeyer, and member of the Order of Daughters of the King. She hosts the blog n2myhead, is currently developing a curriculum on Diversity and lives in Huntsville, AL.

Past Posts